Equal Pay Day fell on 14 November this year. That is the date on which women stop earning in comparison to men. We’ve gained four days from 2018’s date which fell on 10 November. This sounds like we’re making progress, that we’re just a few years from pay parity in the workplace and there’s no need for concern much longer.
There can be no denying that equal pay day falling later in the year is good news – no one wants to think that they’re being taken advantage of by their employer, or that their contribution is seen as less valuable due to the fact that they have a different chromosomal pairing or a different ethnic background – or worse still, both.
But the rate of correction is still so slow that we are, in fact, 60 years from parity. In 2015, the date of Equal Pay Day moved from 9 November (where it had sat for two years) to the following day – and there it stayed for three years. We see progress, then stagnation.
This year’s gender pay gap was reported a few weeks ago showing that it had, in fact, increased 0.3 per cent to 8.9 per cent since 2018. The ONS tells us that this is “not a statistically significant increase” – an increase is an increase but its effect on women trying to get the playing field level is just as depressing. It still marks the wrong direction of travel for the gender pay gap.
We have never been more aware of the issues, concerns and illegalities surrounding equal pay and the gender pay gap. And yet, we are still making achingly slow progress towards rectifying the problem for good. This glacial pace of progression towards equal pay combined with a stagnating gender pay gap can make it all feel a bit pointless – we’re hardly getting anywhere so let’s just give up. But women are resilient and it has to be acknowledged any forward movement is better than no forward movement at all, or even regression.
I was reminded of this earlier in the week when I saw former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard interview former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton. Gillard was the first – and to date, only – woman to hold the office of prime minister in Australia. Clinton, well, we all know about Hillary Rodham Clinton: attorney, mother, former first lady to the most notorious Democrat president of the modern era, former New York senator, secretary of state and first ever female presidential nominee of a major party in the United States.
When reflecting on the burden of expectation placed on her by many women over the course of her presidential run and how she coped with the idea of the future that lay ahead of her, not as she had imagined it, Clinton pointed to the hope and inspiration she felt from the stories of other women. How other women’s successes and triumphs over failure and adversity gave her confidence and faith in the future and its possibilities.
There is something so simple and elegant in this response; we should all look to each other for hope and inspiration, for support and a belief in the future – in all of our futures. Women need to continue the fight, it’s true, but we need everyone in society to understand that equal pay for all will lead to more women in the workplace for longer, a happier and more engaged workforce, and improved profit margins all round – which no business owner or shareholder should sniff at.
Gillard began the interview by revisiting Clinton’s speech 25 years ago in Beijing with the infamous line: “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” The only way forward towards equal pay and the elimination of the gender pay gap is through women and men coming together and fixing the problem together.